Botanical Gardens in Ooty
The Botanical Gardens in Ooty> is also referred to as the 'Government Botanical Gardens'. This concept was laid out in 1847 by the British and further enhanced by the Tamil Nadu Government in order to improve the existing tourism infrastructure in Ooty and lure in more global tourists to Ooty. This Garden is maintained by the Tamil Nadu Horticulture Department to ensure that it is kept clean and beautiful for tourist visits.
The Ooty Botanical Gardens captures a massive area of 22 hectares with the spectacular Blue Nilgiris Mountain Range as the perfect backdrop setting. It is placed on the lower slopes of the stunning and magnificent Doddabetta Peak, the highest point in South India and hence lends one of the most unforgettable panoramic sights to view for all visitors.
The Ooty Botanical Gardens showcases a terraced-style layout divided into sections that scales the slopes of the Nilgiris Hill at a height of between 2,400 meters and 2,500 meters above mean sea level.
The Ooty Botanical Gardens enjoys a pleasant and temperate climate and receives an average rainfall of 140 cm mainly through the south-west monsoons. It also faces frosty nights during the Ooty winter season from November to February with an average temperature ranging between 28° C and 0° C respectively.
The initial layout of the Ooty Botanical Gardens was prepared by The Marquis of Tweeddale during the late 1840s with the prime purpose of growing and cultivating vegetables and supplying it to customers at an affordable rate. The European residents residing in Ooty, then under the British rule, paid a subscription fee of Rs. 3.00 and would receive vegetables free of cost. This arrangement failed and during the year, 1847, funds were raised by means of subscriptions and donations to transform this venue into a horticultural society and a public garden.
The Ooty Botanical Gardens was finally established in 1847 and took shape after it was successfully designed by an architect named William Graham McIvor. Since, Saplings and Seeds were not readily available during the colonial era, wood were selected from the nearby dense jungles of the Nilgiris between Lushington Hall, now the Hebron School, and the Property of General Sewell, now Raj Bhavan, to fill the gardens. After the formation of a Committee, a proposal was made to hire a professional gardener and funds were raised to meet his salary. Mr. W. G. McIvor accepted this proposal and hence, Kew, a professional gardener was hired to transform a vegetable farmland into a public garden.
Kew arrived in Ooty in 1848 and took a good 10 years to complete the Ooty Botanical Gardens. He transformed the upper level, then a forest area, and the lower level, then a swamp area, into a stunning Garden that we see today.
Today, The Ooty Botanical Gardens houses thousands of species of indigenous and exotic trees, shrubs, ferns, bonsai and herbal plants. The focal point of this garden is the centerpiece area where a Fossilized Tree Trunk formidably stands. This ancient tree computes to being about 20 million years old, a must-see. Fossil Tree Trunks are formed when trees are carried downstream by rivers and get deposited within the inland lakes getting transformed into a woody matter by silica.
Presently, the Ooty Botanical Gardens features 5 sections named as the Lower Garden, Fountain Terrace, Italian Garden, New Garden, The Conservatory and Nurseries Section.
The Lower Garden of the Botanical Garden features the entrance into the lower section of the Ooty Botanical Gardens that further leads into a large verdant green lawn embedded with Kikuyu Grass, known for its flexibility. As you continue, you arrive at a fern house that homes 127 fern species situated towards the left and along the road that leads to the famous Raj Bhavan in Ooty where you are welcomed with historic gatehouses within extensive lawns. This is the section where you get to view the famous and distinct carpet-bed design of the Map of India which is made by using selective plants including the 20-millon year old fossil tree trunk that stands within a platform surrounding it.
The Italian Garden of the Botanical Garden was laid out by Italian POW [Prisoners of War] from World War 1. They were moved to Ooty during the colonial era under the control of the Military station in Ooty. This Section is dressed with several lawns that feature a variety of exotic species of flowers and plants including medicinal plants, flowerbeds, lily ponds and ferns such as ageratum, asters, balsam, begonia, cosmos, pansy, petunia, phlox and zinnia including perennial flowers like dahlia, delphinium, larkspur and salvia that exhibit a typical Italian Garden Design.
The landscaped Lower section of the Botanical Gardens blend well with the Italian fashioned flowerbeds that surrounds the central octagonal bandstand. The ponds of lilies, also home to several aquatic plant species, dressed in a crescent shape in the foreground and an attractive variety of colourful plants, trees and flowers are the prime attractions of this Section.
New Garden is a new addition to the Ooty Botanical Garden that was recently developed. It captures the area between the front garden and the crescent-shaped Lily ponds at the octagonal bandstand and comprises of a ‘Rose Garden’ that features a variety of 300 Hybrid Tea Roses and varieties of Polyanthus and Floribunda Roses. You will notice a numerous flowerbeds that are beautifully designed to match the contour of the Nilgiris slopes and the area as well lending a stunning visual treat to all visitors. Emblems of the Tamil Nadu Government and the Indian Government are designed in Carpet-beds with the use of a selection of plants and flowers, one of the attractions of this Section and a must-see.
The Conservatory was built way back in 1912 with the primarily aim to group various flowering plants. Here, you can enjoy a view of several colourful annuals and perennial plants such as the Achimenes, Balsam, Calceolaria, Chrysanthemum, Cineraria, Coleus, Cyclamen, Geranium, Gloxinia, Primula, Schizanthus, Tuberous begonia and many more. The Bog Garden or Swamp Garden situated east of this Conservatory acts as an auxiliary to provide a good venue for marshland where plants like Arum, Hedychium [a perennial plant], Hydrangea, the Weeping Willow and many such plant species are seen growing well.
The Nurseries stand over 300 feet above the lower garden sections of the Ooty Botanical Garden and encompasses eight glass-houses including a series of terrace layouts to introduce and breed new exotic plant species. The glass-houses feature species of Begonias, Bulbous, Cacti, Ferns and Succulents plants including Orchids that are grown as potted plants for supply purposes. These are periodically grouped in the conservatories while the terrace layouts are utilized for nurturing plants for seeds, cut flowers used in decorations and for trial purposes.
The Famous Toda Mund or the Toda Hill is situated within the Ooty Botanical Garden and is used as an edutainment site to offer visitors with an insight into the lives and dwelling of the indigenous Tribes of Ooty known as the Todas.
In order to create better awareness amongst flower growers about the flora of Ooty and the Nilgiris region, a garden competition is organised prior to the Flower Show Festival that involves Public Gardens, Estate Gardens, Private Cottage Gardens and various other Garden categories to partake. About 200 Gardens compete in this event every year, held within the Ooty Botanical Gardens, where the best gardens are awarded with prizes and trophies.